Giving Thanks For Autumn

During the late summer, we traveled to Alaska (more on that trip later), which was nice because it isn’t only Florida that gets hot in the summer.  We found out just how hot it can be in Colorado too.  So when we returned to Colorado in mid-September, it wasn’t long before the autumn season to begin to emerge.

First, there’s a wonderful crispness to the atmosphere and the leaves start to turn yellow.   To see our first signs of color we headed up to the Grand Mesa.  There we saw the first  colors beginning to reflect in the lake waters.

850_5610Yes, the aspens have turned shades of yellow, light green, and have begun to deepen also into some light orange colors.  With each week … heck even with each day … the colors of the leaves change drastically._DSC5639-Edit-EditOne week we ventured over Red Mountain Pass in the San Juan Mountains to the town of Silverton.  At the summit area, we came across magnificent colors both on the mountainside and in the water’s surface below._DSC5797-Edit-EditLooking down at the autumn-kissed landscape below, I just loved how the yellows, oranges, reds, and shades of green all blended together so beautifully._DSC5819-EditBack to the Grand Mesa, which is less than an hour away from Grand Junction, I love to find myself immersed in the midst of the tall golden aspens … looking up towards the sky.  Nothing like feeling so insignificant in the scheme of things._DSC5958Today this landscape is already covered in snow, but it sure is so stunning in the fall.  _DSC5706Speaking of what it looks like now … of course, it would be evergreens and lots of bare, monochromatic trees. _DSC5694_DSC5680Though it’s difficult to capture properly through images, I just love the vast array of colors in any single given array of trees standing.  Of course, those clear blue skies make it even more impressive._DSC5730-EditYes the autumn season is a new one for me, as in Florida we really didn’t get treated to one.  I find it a favorite time to get outdoors to try to capture its beauty … for it is always changing – day to day, week to week, year to year (or so I’m told) … but for me, it’s just too fleeting.  _DSC5743I really wish that it would last longer   🙂_DSC5748Even the wildlife looks so incredibly beautiful with that amazing fall bokeh in the background.  Don’t you think?  LOL500_1037News Flash … it actually snowed here this past Saturday already!  Almost a full month earlier than last year.  See, I told you that the autumn season was fleeting this year.

Next Up:  Honestly, with the holidays almost upon us … I’m just not sure.  :-O

© 2018  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com                 http://www.tnwaphotography.wordpress.com

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The Birds, Wildlife, & Stars of the Mesa

One of our favorite places to go not too far from our home base is the grand Mesa Wilderness.  It’s only about 1/2 hr to the exit off I-70, then about another 1/2 hr all of the way to the top.  That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a lot of fun stuff from the canyon floor to the Mesa vista to see … to the contrary, there are subjects to see all along the way.  On this couple of days in late spring, I thought I would share some fun images.

I was speaking to someone today about birds that you see in one locale (i.e. state) that you don’t in another … such birds are what I call “ho hum” birds … the ones that are quite plentiful.  See, when i lived in south Florida, I loved to see white-crowned sparrows, since I didn’t see them all of the time … or hardly there at all.  Here we see them pretty much all over … and in all stages.

500_4923Then there’s the pine siskin … a never seen (usually) bird in south Florida, but another uite common bird in the western Colorado geography.  I have been having a great time photographing them.500_4733500_4749The western kingbird is a beautiful flycatcher, which is common here and known to winter in south Florida … that doesn’t mean that I’ve photographed one there … for I wasn’t known for my knowledge of “non-raptor” birds.  LOL850_4386Some birds which migrate through Florida during migration, actually spend their summers here in Colorado … such as the beautiful yellow warbler.  500_4840During the summer, they nest here and that’s when my skills as a bird ID’er really get challenged … fledglings are seemingly everywhere.500_4770I absolutely love the yellow-dumped or Audubon’s warblers.  They have the most striking combination of black, gray, and white, with a sprinkling of beautiful yellow as well (this is the male).

500_5064Speaking of beautiful … the lazuli bunting summers here as well and it’s quite a thrill for me to see it when I’m out and about.  I was fortunate even to get a few who visited my back yard feeder.500_5354Singing birds are such fun to encounter as well.500_5506Not only do we have western kingbirds, but we also have eastern kingbirds (OK, truth be told I THINK that this is an image of one … but even if it isn’t, we do have them).850_4167Of course, my favorite of all types of birds are the ones in the raptor heading.  All kinds of raptors … from hawks to owls to eagles to falcons and everything in between.  Prairie falcons are quite fascinating raptors in the falcon family.  We never had them in Florida, so I’ve learned a lot about them lately.  It nests on cliffs and can often be found there or searching for prey on the prairies.850_4268850_4319The most common raptor we have is the red-tailed hawk.  Contrary to belief not all red-tailed hawks actually have red tails, but you can be pretty sure if you see a red tail, that’s what it is.  Other clues are things like belly bands and patterns on the back of the birds when perched.850_4096Wait a minute … now that’s not a raptor or even a bird.  Actually when up on the Mesa, Tom enjoys flying his RC glider sailplanes.  LOL.  It’s always fun to hear people talking about it when they see it flying about.850_4345Of course, the Mesa is not only birds.  In fact, there are lots of wildlife species up there too.  There are smaller animals such as the squirrels and the chipmunks … which have been quite habituated.850_4352500_4055850_4356850_4370Several times we’ve also encountered some nice healthy-looking coyote.  It always amazing me how they freeze their action when spotted until they assess that you’re not a threat … at which time they go about their normal day and hunting.850_4157Then there are yellow-bellied marmot and in the late spring, there are lots of them.  Both adults and their young can be found scurrying about.  Of course, the interactions of the young are simply fabulous to observe.  Sometimes their play fighting takes on quite the realistic look.  LOL500_5587-EditLike pika, young marmot gather up grasses and run their payload into the cracks and crevices of the rock piles they live in.500_5836-EditThen there’s the nighttime skies over the Grand Mesa.  Trust me, it gets pretty dark up there and it’s fabulous to take in some astro photography up there.  If not, you can still enjoy the millions of stars and the Milky Way as it rises over the night sky.  The perfect way to end the day … or I should say night … on the Mesa.850_4473-EditNext Up:  A favorite Colorado pastime in the autumn

© 2018  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com                 http://www.tnwaphotography.wordpress.com

My Colorado Neighbors

I never was much of a “smaller bird” watcher in Florida … don’t know why, but I just wasn’t.  Probably though I found them a bit frustrating to photograph as they darted in and out of the bushy trees.  LOL.  However, here on the western slope, I find it more fun to photograph them and have learned a whole lot about them.

On of the more popular and quite beautiful birds that we get is the Bullock’s oriole.  Being mostly bright orange with a black crown and eye line they are quite easily spotted as they dart from tree to bushes, feeding on berries, fruits, and small insects.

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They are one of only a few species that will eject the eggs of a pesky cowbird that has slipped one of their own eggs into the orioles nest for them to raise.  Quite fascinating.500_3458-Edit-EditThe male blue grosbeak is another that is easily spotted and identified in good light.  Its behavior of feeding is quite similar to that of orioles.  It’s quite a beautifully colored bird.500_3183Though I can’t identify birds by their songs and sounds to save myself, that doesn’t mean that I don’t try.  LOL.  Often I hear songs that I believe are one species … only to find a northern mockingbird instead.  They are the masters of mimickery (is that even a word?) for sure.  I always wonder why a bird named “northern” would be primarily found in the south … right?  It’s the state bird of 5 states (Florida, Arkansas, Tennessee, Texas, and Mississippi) … those aren’t even remotely “northern”.  Go figure.500_3245Another beautiful bird that we never had in Florida is the lark sparrow.  I personally love its striped head and social nature.  An interesting fact about lark sparrow is that when on the ground, they only hop around, as opposed to walk around, when they’re in courtship mode, which in itself is quite fascinating.  Love this one with its “bonus bug” in its beak.500_3797500_3168There are many different types of swallows here on the western slope, including the ever-abundant barn swallow, whose range is almost the entire lower 48 + AK + Canada and Mexico.  They have deeply forked tails and the females tend to prefer those males with the longest tails … I guess that (tail) size does matter!  LOL 500_3208Northern rough-winged swallows have a similar geographical range.  They are pretty much less colorful or striking to view as the others.  This pair I would see on the same branch almost every time I looked.  500_3817I’ve had quite the hummingbird education since I’ve been in Colorado.  In my backyard, the black-chinned hummingbirds are my most common hummingbird visitors.  I saw my first hummingbird nests and was astonished to see just how very tiny they are.  Did you know that this species’ nest can also expand to accommodate the growing nestlings?  Now that’s amazing to me!500_3175The water birds can be fun to photograph as well.  Two of them are my personal favorites for this area.  The American avocet is quite beautiful with the daintiest long curled upward beaks ever.  500_3325Another favorite of mine are the killdeer … which you will undoubtedly hear long before you see them scurrying about.  Such characters they are … and quite beautiful as well.850_4482-Edit-EditNow, of course, anyone who knows me knows that birds of prey are my favorite birds.  This amazing Cooper’s hawk is just one of many that call my area home.500_4006During the late spring and summer, we also get Swainson’s hawks.  When they call out, to me, they sound just like red-tailed hawks and their call is sure to make your hair on your neck stand up.  LOL500_4261Being from Florida I was quite used to reptiles (lizards, alligators, non-native iguanas), but here we have numerous species of our own lizards.500_3986My favorite one is the collared lizard, which I was in search of and when I finally found one, I stopped in my tracks.  I was so impressed with their colors and patterns in their skin.500_3865-Edit-2-Edit-EditThey’re also quite tolerant of the observer … but rest assured I photographed these using my car as a blind because I was so excited and really didn’t want to alter it from sunning itself.500_4203I’m also quite impressed with those long claws … such fascinating creatures too.  When the mom lays her eggs, she leaves and the young emerge having to fend for themselves right from the start.  Amazing, huh?  Can’t wait until next spring/summer to see more!500_4237Hope that everyone enjoyed this week’s post.  Let me know what you think by leaving a comment if you would like.

Next Up:  I’m missing the beach … so let’s hit the ocean!

© 2018  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com                 http://www.tnwaphotography.wordpress.com

Western Screech Owls … Oh My

What can I say about owls?  I just ADORE them!  Whether they’re burrowing owls (as blogged about last post), or any of the other North American species (great horned, barred, northern hawk, northern pygmy, northern saw whet, snowy, great gray, barn, boreal, flammulated, ferruginous pygmy, long-eared, short-eared, spotted owl) … oh, and I can’t forget the screech owls – eastern and western species.

In Florida, we were graced with a pair of eastern screech owls which took up residence in our yard, or in a neighbor’s yard, and gave us the opportunity to watch their young grow up and eventually fledge.  One time, Tom even got to rescue a 2-week old owlet that had fallen out of its nest while its mom was sleeping.

So it’s safe to say I have a definite love for them.  So when I heard that there was going to be a public owl banding event in my area, I just knew that I had to be there for it.500_3025That’s right … the Grand Valley Audubon Society, who incidentally had the highest record of western screech owls in the U.S. in 2017, was going to be visiting some known nests in the area and banding the mom and the young owlets.  Most of the owls were from owl boxes that the Audubon group or residents had erected to promote good environments for them to breed in and raise their young.IMG_7444One of the coolest things to me was that this event focused on youth and so lots of children were in attendance.  I remember thinking how cool this would have been for me as I was growing up.  Once the owls were gathered, they would examine them for age, past banding (if applicable), etc.  Records are kept to aid in the scientific studies of the species.IMG_7440When one of the moms was held, Kim (the biologist who was banding them) educated kids and adults alike on many things, including the “brood patch” which is evident when mom is caring for her very young … keeping them warm.IMG_7438The young owlets, of course, were a bit unaware of what was going on, but they didn’t seem to mind too much.500_2959Once a band was placed, that number and location would be recorded on the record sheets.500_3008Each owlet of the brood would take their turn in banding and would then get huddled up together for security and warmth.  Here you can see 5 babies … which was a new one for me.500_2928Could these sweet little faces be any cuter?500_2968Mama would always keep a close eye on her young and though seemingly irritated at first, would calm down in no time.500_2876500_2989It was interesting to me to see the variation of number of young at each nest and also the timing of their new arrivals … as some were clearly older or younger than others.
500_2981500_3002One thing was for sure … they were all adorable!  Look at those iconic lemon yellow eyes and all of that down looking feathers.  I was in heaven as I happily snapped off images at each stop.500_3047Yes, I was bitten by the western screech owl bug for sure!  Can’t wait to do it again next year.  ❤500_3038Hope that everyone enjoyed it as much as I did.  I would highly encourage any of you owl-lovers out there to take advantage of any programs that you might have in your town to spend some time with this worthwhile educational event.  Be forewarned though … you might just have your heart melted.  🙂

Next Up:  More local birding action

© 2018  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com               http://www.tnwaphotography.wordpress.com

Few Things Are Cuter Than Fox Kits

Everyone knows that my absolute favorite subject to photograph are bears … brown bears, black bears, polar bears … it doesn’t matter.  They are far and above my number one!  After bears, my affection goes to owls … great horned, burrowing, western screech, barn, eastern screech, barred, short-eared, long-eared, northern pygmy, northern saw whet, or even the snowy (yes, we had one visit once in FL, believe it or not).  After bears and owls, come fox!  Yes FOX, and in 2018 so far, I’ve had my share of them.

One encounter, my first in Colorado, was particularly exciting for me to witness … as the first always is.  Sure, I’ve encountered many in other areas, such as Yellowstone and the Tetons, but this one was CO.

It seemingly appeared out of nowhere … and as you can see, it brought along its shadow as well.  LOL.

500_9056Before long, another appeared over the dirt berm and my heart began to skip a beat.500_9027To witness such sweetness makes it difficult for me to photograph.  I want to stare directly into it mesmerizing eyes and follow that up with squeals of delight.  Look at that dirty nose, indicative of the rooting around that it had been doing.500_9284Wasn’t sure how it would react to me, as I respectfully kept my distance, though never let it willingly out of my sight.  I think it was a contest of intrigue and curiosity of the other.  I absolutely loved that it showed no fear whatsoever with my presence and continued to act so naturally.500_9300Birds flew about and called out periodically, which made the fox kit turn its attention to them as well.500_9117Before long, the two began to attempt at playing, which furthered my happiness.  There’s nothing as wonderful to me when photographing wildlife as to have them acting like the young kits that they were … much like bear cubs or owlets, their entire day is filled with learning about their environment and other life lessons that will serve them well.  Of course, there’s always time for playfulness too.500_9168It was all I could do to keep my excitement to myself when I was met with stares like this.500_9112As 2018 progressed, I had other fox kit encounters … so much so that it felt like it had become the year of the fox for me … that is, until I returned to Alaska recently.  LOL500_9375-Edit-EditI really hope that everyone enjoys the little fox kits … for there are so many more to go.  Until then, I look at this image and my heart reignites.  Any other fox lovers out there?

Next up:  Sanctuary birds of BC

© 2018  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com                Blog:  www.tnwaphotography.wordpress.com

Western Slope Birding in Late Spring

Back to checking out the local birds of the western slope of Colorado.  What I have found since being here is that you never know what … or where … you ‘re going to find our feathered friends.

Case in point, while visiting a local park, we saw a flock of birds arriving at the lake.  I looked and immediately declared (to myself) that these were glossy ibis.  After a quick check for CO birds, I noticed that they don’t get glossy ibis like we did in Florida.  Rather, these were white-faced ibis.  Very similar except for the white colored face … both species though are very beautiful with their iridescent feathers, especially in the light.850_1634Common terns also call my new area home and often seen flying overhead.500_3614One species that we never see in FL (I guess one should never say “never”) are the western grebes.  These birds tend to summer with us and are quite beautiful, especially with that red eye that they possess.850_1653850_1662850_1664850_1667American wigeon taking off across the lake.500_3626Of course, raptors pass through in numbers too.  Take the American kestrel for example … always flying by seemingly in such a hurry.850_1669-EditAlong the water’s edge one can find an assortment of shorebirds, such as this wonderful spotted sandpiper.500_9907Up in the trees, yellow warbler congregate as they flutter in an out of the branches.500_9484Western kingbirds are quite the noisy bunch and difficult to miss when they are present.  500_9872500_9866This male black-headed grosbeak is a routine visitor as well.500_9764While a western kingbird is a type of flycatcher, we also have ash-throated flycatchers.  I just love their head feather crest.500_9689Of course, closer to home, I can always count on the house finch, as well as a variety of other sparrows and finches.  We had so many outdoor cats in our neighborhood in FL, so we never did the bird feeders, but we have here … and also the bird bath fountain, which is a personal favorite of mine to observe.  🙂500_9954Next up:  3 letters … beings with “f” and they get me quite excited when I see them.

© 2018  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com                www.tnwaphotography.wordpress.com

The Mating Dance Ritual of the Greater Sage Grouse

In the last blog post, I shared images from a spring trip to the small town of Walden, CO.  Though we saw a variety of wildlife as well as a variety of birds, it wasn’t actually the purpose of our trip.  See, we had a date with some greater sage grouse.  I was quite excited and totally willing to get up at 4 AM, gather up my gear, layer up for the coldness of the early spring morning, and head out to meet our group.

The Chamber of Commerce of North Park and Colorado Parks & Wildlife offer spectators and photographers an opportunity to observe these amazing grouse from a viewing trailer.  One must arrive in the darkness, well before the earliest of light, as to not disturb the upcoming activities.
IMG_6880Greater sage grouse (centrocercus urophasianus) are the largest species of grouse.  They reside in the sagebrush environment and during the spring, they congregate – males and females – on ceremonial mating grounds called leks, which they return to year after year.

Once we arrived at the trailer, we were put ushered quickly and quietly into the trailer and remained there in the dark.  After some time, we could hear the sounds of the grouse gathering outside, but our trailer blinds were down.  It was quite cool to listen to, as our minds curiously wondered how many were out there … and how close.  Eventually, our awning was lifted.  In the beginning we couldn’t see anything … but a quick glance through my binoculars proved that they in fact had arrived.
500_1521Males would sometimes confront each other almost seemingly sizing each other up.500_1735The females would gather in the center of the action, as if to judge the displays of the males.500_1725It’s incredible to witness this display, as the males transform themselves into a semblance that one wouldn’t recognize just hours earlier.  500_2288Basically, the males perform mating rituals on the lek through strutting displays.  The more dominant males gather on the inside of the lek “circle”, where the females are hanging out.

The strutting starts by a male who fans its spiked tail first ….500_2409….. then its yellow eyecombs follow, along with its “ponytail” filoplumes.500_2531As the male begins to strut, he inflates a pair of yellowish throat sacs, which are underneath its white breast feathers. 500_1790500_2576500_2533-Edit500_2558An incredible popping noise is audible … which we became very attune to in knowing when the press the shutter.  500_2563Then the courtship dance ritual is repeated over … and … over … as many as 6-10 times per minute for an incredible 3-4 hours daily.500_2464500_2471

500_2415On this particular day, there were about 47 males on the lek, courting approximately 11 females.  The more dominant males would enter the center of the lek, where the females were congregated, while the younger and thus less dominant males would strut their stuff further outside the inner circle, unlikely to get noticed.500_2473

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500_2577They say that 80% of the females mate with the dominant or alpha male, while the next male in line mates with the remaining 20%.
500_2293Then, with no warning it seems, the party is over and they revert to their pre-mating ritual selves … and fly away!500_2611Once they have all vacated the lek area, it’s safe for us to emerge.IMG_6881As I gather up my belongings, I can’t help but think back to the privilege I had just experienced in watching the Greater Sage Grouse.  IMG_6883Their numbers have been declining overall due to loss of habitat (secondary to a number of reasons) and efforts to get their protections that they desperately need via the Endangered Species Act have been unsuccessful.  I sure hope that one day everyone can have the privilege to witness their amazing courtship/mating dance for themselves and appreciate their instinct in returning to the lek year after year.  Please read up on these amazing creatures and assist in protecting them for generations to come.  Thanks.500_2474

Next Up:  Local birding near Fruita, CO

© 2018  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com                 http://www.tnwaphotography.wordpress.com

 

 

My Walden Adventure

So, I had always heard about Walden, CO … a small town in Jackson County.  It’s other claim to fame is the self-proclaimed title of the “Moose Capital of Colorado”, boosting hundreds of them.  I certainly hoped that we would see some moose, but our purpose on this trip was not the moose, but rather an Endangered Species, but more on that in the next blog post.

So off we went, my good friend Amy and I, on our adventure.  It was my first trip there, so I had no idea what to expect.  It was about a 4+ hr drive, but with us, it tends to take longer.  You guessed it … lots to see along the way, therefore lots of photo stops.  LOL

It wasn’t long before we started seeing lots of deer … often crossing the road in front of us, but sometimes just hanging out on the snow covered landscape along the way.

850_1214It wasn’t just the deer either … we came across several groups of wild turkeys.  It was such a cool sight to see this tom turkey chasing one of his ladies.  LOL850_1295-EditThe herds of elk were much more elusive and stayed relatively higher except for a herd that was crossing a field down low.850_1375One of my favorite sightings is a northern harrier (as some of you know) so when I saw these two fly by, soaring over the field, I was thrilled.  Funny, but to me they almost seem to be holding hands … or should I say … wings.  ❤500_9443Other birds witnessed along the way were the ever abundant horned larks …500_9506… and a personal favorite of mine, the American dipper.  500_9410Once we arrived into Walden, we drove around the area to see what we could see.  Canada geese were plentiful everywhere, and it was quite a thrill to see several northern pintails.500_9517In addition to that there were also northern shovelers… so very pretty.500_9782Pied-billed grebes were also plentiful … and they were sporting their breeding plumage.500_9927Then the white pelicans flew in and sort of stole the show.  In Florida, we got our share of white pelicans, as well as brown pelicans, but we never got the white pelicans in their breeding plumage.  See the horn on their bill?  That is present when they are ready to breed and then afterwards they lose them.500_9732The pelicans worked with much effort and speed to feed in the waters.500_9887Probably one of the more interesting observations with these pelicans was the interaction between 3 of them.  One was clearly in the lead and when it would change course, the two immediately following changed course.  The two following would also get quite aggressive with each … challenging and snapping beaks.500_0182Finally, one of the two grabbed the first one by the neck and thrashed it left to right and then eventually straight down into the water, while the other simply watched.  Not sure what that was about … but I have my hunch.  :-O500_0274Later the two were swimming together notably alone.  I just love how for “white birds” they are quite colorful and full of detail.500_0229-Edit-EditDriving down a dirt road, we came across this lovely hawk.  It was calling out repeatedly in what could only be compared to as a red-tailed hawk call.  However, this wasn’t a red-tailed hawk, but rather a Swainson’s hawk.  It was then that I realized how similar their calls sounded.  It was quite persistent too … calling over and over.500_2845During our travels we came across a pair of American kestrels, which I believe might have been beginning to prepare their nest.  The pair were flying around and announcing their territory.  Isn’t the male just gorgeous?500_3470Now one of the star raptors always is the golden eagle and there was no shortage of them.  Quite beautiful in flight as they make their way past us over the landscape.500_3442Being that Tom and I have been doing a lot of raptor observation lately, I knew right away from its field marks, that this was indeed another golden sighting.500_2696Of course, there were a variety of birds spotted throughout the sagebrush landscape.500_3411Some were even showing off for the camera.  🙂500_3387We then headed back to the lake and found several otters playing … of course, they were a bit camera shy and headed out for a more distant view.500_3090We also found muskrats and beavers in an adjoining waterway.  The surface of the water was like glass and as such the beaver’s head had a perfect reflection whether it was coming or going.500_3273500_3292-EditWell you can’t come to Walden and not look for moose, right?  OK, so we did eventually do that, but at first I had to get some beautiful mountain bluebird poses and images.  Is there any prettier bird out there?500_3012So we did finally get our moose sightings … about 5 if I remember correctly.  Early spring  moose are not that exciting, as the bulls have already lost their antlers and re-growth hasn’t started.  Also, they tend to be more secretive and deep into the brush foraging for food.500_2964The sunset was also fabulous and I think, the perfect way to end this blog post.  There was so much seen and photographed.  Too much to include everything in this post, so forgive me for not sharing it all.  Yes, Walden is a magical place.850_1601

Next Up:  The main attraction in Walden … i.e. Why we went.  🙂

© 2018  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com                 http://www.tnwaphotography.wordpress.com

 

 

Altered Plans That Turn Out For The Best

In early spring, we decided to take a day trip a bit northeast of our home in extreme western Colorado.  Leaving early in the wee hours of the morning, we always hope to make some wildlife sightings along the way.

Yep, that we did … as we came across a herd of elk crossing a mostly barren landscape, though some snow was still hanging around.

850_0966Along the road we also spotted several raptors … including this beautiful red-tailed hawk perched in the tree and nicely exposed.500_7165Others were out flying and perching in nearby trees … with skill in their execution I might add.500_7185-Edit-EditOthers soar through the sky, searching their landscape for their next meal.  I have been amazed that while many of our raptors are in fact red-tailed hawks, there is quite a variety of other raptors out here as well.500_7318Sometimes the best laid out plans don’t actually work out … especially in the winter season.  So when we reached a “closed for the winter” sign on a road that we expected open, we knew that we had to alter our path.  That of course, usually means something cool is coming up that we were intended to see.

All of this commotion was going on in the trees and upon closer inspection we realized that it was this beautiful song sparrow.  Easy to see where they get their name from as their song is so varied and so sweet.  Even the mockingbird, which is usually the skilled imitator, cannot imitate their song.  500_7274-EditAlong the river, we spotted small wren-like birds darting up and back along the river’s surface.  The fast moving water was quite cold and there was snow and ice along the bank … none of which appeared to bother the dipper.500_7555-EditSteadily perched on the boulders in the water, the dipper looks for food consisting of insects, small fish, and fish eggs to dine on.  500_7440I have to admire its stability in that cold rushing water as it gets splashed about by the action of the waves.500_7423It feeds by diving into the water and often swimming with beating wings through the depth of the water.  Quite fascinating.  This one was doing something totally different though, so we didn’t really know what was going on.500_7595When diving or otherwise submerging itself through the water, it has an additional eyelid which it uses.  Quite amazing, and even creepy, to see.  :-O500_7551500_7605Eventually we watched it as it began to gather up algae and wet mosses and twigs from the bottow of the river and submerged rocks.  500_7674Yep, it became abundantly clear to us that it was foraging for nesting materials.  Now THAT was super cool to watch.  Unfortunately when it would take the “building materials” under the nearby bridge so we could not play inspectors to how it was progressing.  😉500_7661But for sure the action was repeated over … and over … and over.  Yep, as I said, fate has a way to alter our laid out plans and I never question it too much.  I just keep my eyes open for the reason.  It’s usually there.  🙂500_7724Next Up:  Let’s take a trip to Northern Colorado

© 2018  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com                  www.tnwaphotography.wordpress.com

A Little Birding By The Lake

One of our local Colorado State Parks is a favorite destination for us to get outdoors, with limited time, and get in some wildlife viewing and photography.  Most times, in the spring, that means birding.

In Florida, we have a year round abundance of osprey.  I was worried that I would miss these beautiful birds, but I haven’t found that to be the case … except of course for the quantities.  In fact, the osprey both spend the summers here in western Colorado and also nest and raise their young here.  Furthermore, the osprey can be found in 49 of the  50 US states!  I really had no idea.500_8139Another bird that is found in almost all states, but here they’re primarily spending their winters, is the merlin.  Interestingly, we found this one in the spring, but with the mild winter that we had perhaps there wasn’t much of a signal that it was time to move on. :-O This one was so beautiful and quite cooperative for the lens.500_9270One of our year-long residents is the American kestrel.  Being one of the smallest raptors (other than several species of owls), the kestrel can often be seen on power lines and poles throughout our neighborhood.  They hunt in the rural fields and nest here as well.500_8282Around the shores of the lake, you can always count on the killdeer.  Easy to spot because of their running around, seemingly at a frantic pace, and also their calling out … also franctic.  LOL.  So beautiful with the red ring in the eye and their lovely markings.500_8451A whole host of other shorebirds share the shoreline with them.500_8640One of my favorite sightings locally this late spring was that of a few eared grebes.  500_8091Fully dressed in their breeding plumage, these two followed each other around the lake, often times mixing it up with the coots and a few western grebes.  The eared grebe is the most abundant grebe in the world.  Another amazing fact about the eared grebes is that they spend 9-10 months of the year essentially flightless … the longest of any bird that has the ability to fly!500_8044That amazing red eye is undeniable … your eye and that of the camera lens gravitates right to it.  Splash in those organge feathers contrasting with it and … oh wow!  With eared grebes, the sexes appear similar.  In the winter, they are much more drab looking.  Lucky for all of us, they emerge into this amazing plumage.500_7890Right behind them in their beauty are the American avocets.  Their grace in flight is unmatched … well, except by perhaps the black-necked stilts.  500_8412These long-legged shorebirds possess that thin, long. slightly upturned beak with black and white feathers patterned on their back and sides, as illustrated above.  The images ahred here are those which are adults in breeding plumage.500_9064They feed in the waters on insects, crustaceans, and invertebrates.  I just love it when they feed or drink in the water, especially when the droplets of water coming from their beaks is captured through the lens.500_9112-Edit-EditWhen we photographed them wading in the shallow waters, some were sleeping, some simply resting otherwise, and then one was just showing off for the lens.  LOL.  I loved the symmetry of this image. ❤500_8342-EditOf course, where there are birds and smaller wildlife … there might also be foxes.  Lucky for us, we spotted this beautiful red fox exploring its surroundings … probably looking for a quick meal.500_9324Yep it’s such a wonderful place to get out and explore and the best part is … you NEVER know what you’re going to find!

Next up:  Let’s go a bit NE of our home … and see what we find.  🙂

© 2018  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com              www.tnwaphotography.wordpress.com